Hanslope, a Lace Village

In Utley's book on Buckinghamshire he writes the following about the introduction of lace to England:
Bone lace is mentioned in 1577, about that time Flemish weavers and lace makers fled to England, bringing their crafts. Some of these settled in Olney, Newport Pagnell and this part of the county, with Hanslope and Stony Stratford the strongest centres for lace making.

The two ladies in the picture are relatives of a Hanslope person.

The picture shows how lace is made on pillows. In the past the pillows were stuffed with cut straw and placed on a stand, on a table or across the knees. Today other materials are used in the pillows, quite often a block of polystyrene.

The two pillows above are present day. The one on the left is torchon lace and the one on the right Bucks lace.

In Memorials of Old Buckinghamshire by P.H.Ditchfield is the following:
Newport Pagnell seems to have been the great market, as well as the technical centre, of the lace trade, whence manufacturing districts, and more especially those of Olney and Hanslope, received their patterns, and where they sent their goods to be sold to the lace buyers. In Lyson's Magna Britannica we find that lace making is in no part of the country so general as at Hanslope and in its immediate vicinity; it prevails for fifteen to twenty miles round in every direction. At Hanslope no fewer than 800 out of a population of 1275 were employed in it in the year 1801. Children are put to the lace schools at, or soon after, five years of age. At eleven or twelve years of age they are able to maintain themselves without assistance. Both boys and girls are taught to make it, and some, when they are grown up, follow no other employment; others when out of work find it a good resource, and can earn as much as the generality of day labourers. The lace made at Hanslope is from sixpence to two guineas a yard in value. It is calculated that between £8,000 and £10,000 net profit is annually brought into the parish by the lace manufacturers.

The pattern for the lace consists of cards with holes punched in them. Pins are inserted in the holes as the lace making progresses.

The threads are wound on the bobbins, which have varied designs and are usually made out of wood or bone. They are in themselves works of art, and the varying types were known by picturesque names such as Old Maid's bobbins; Mothers-in-Babe; Cows-in Calf. Some bobbins were plain and thin; others had little bobbins carved separately inside bigger ones. There were Church Windows, with tiny Gothic openings; Tiger bobbins, with inlaid pewter stripes (see above); Leopard bobbins, with spots; and many others. Girls sent bobins to young men instead of Valentine cards. The hopes and jokes of generations of simple country people were inscribed on them, at so much per word for the bobbin maker: "Love is Love; Marry Me Quick and Lowly Speak; Sitting on a Stile Mary Happy is the Day; Kis Me Court Me Hold Me Tite; Don't Crump my Hair Tonite; Kis Me Quck My Mome is Comin". Such were the sentiments of the Hanslope cottage women as they worked by oil lamp with a water-filled globe to magnify the light. In many ways of course it was servitude. Their real skill was not paid for anything like adequately. The cottagers had no real comeback against the hard-nosed bargaining of the lace buyers, and weeks of labour produced little more than a pittance.

The 1779 survey of Hanslope lists 3 lace dealers: Mr.W.Kitelee, Mr.Phillips and Mr.J. Hindes.

The 1798 Posse Comitatus of Hanslope lists a number of lace makers and lace dealers.

History of Buckinghamshire by Sheahan states that in 1861 500 women and children were still making lace in Hanslope.

The demise of lace making as a cottage industry came about with the introduction of machine-made lace centred on Nottingham. Such lace-making as survives today does so as a hobby rather than as a business.

Liz Bartlett in her book "Lace Villages" mentions two lace schools in Hanslope.

The photograph shows Lace Cottage in Long Street. The stone building has acquired a new roof and at various times in its history it has been one dwelling or even three.

Mrs. Mapley (the lady on the left) is pictured here at a Hanslope Church Open Day in 1988 with a display of lace making.

Today a few people carry on lace making in the village as a hobby. Mrs. Mapley has held a lace group for many years, teaching newcomers the art of making lace.

The picture above shows examples of lace used for edging. The photo below shows Cranfield church which has been framed and used as a picture.

Lace in Hanslope has gone from being a sweatshop-type cottage industry, employing children from a very young age working in cramped conditions and having to work by candle light in the evenings, into a hobby today.

To read about lace in Stony Stratford, click here

To read about Harry Armstrong and the Bucks Lace Workers Agency, click here

To read more about the lace industry in the Eastern Counties, click here

To read about modern lacemaking with the Olney Lace circle, click here